Friday, July 25, 2008

First-Ever Thai/Pattani-Malay Dictionary

When the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) – a government sanctioned commission comprised of academics, civil society leaders, and politicians tasked with recommending ways to relieve violence in the southern border provinces – recommended in 2006 that Pattani-Malay become a working language for the southern border provinces the idea was shot down by various spoilers.

The most devastating was most likely Privy Council President and former Prime Minister General Prem Tinsulanonda. He employed an ultra-nationalist tone and claimed that "We cannot accept that [proposal] as we are Thai. The country is Thai and the language is Thai”.

Such narrow minded nationalist restrictions on what it means to be Thai are, of course, far from the ethnic/linguistic realities of Thailand.

For the majority of southern Muslims, their first language is Pattani-Malay. The language exists only in spoken form and is sometimes mistakenly called Yawi (อาวี) which is actually the name of the language when written with the Arabic script. The language is a dialect of Malay and can be heard in most of peninsular Thailand and even in some neighborhoods of the capital Bangkok. In the southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat it is the most commonly used language and has strong roots in the culture and religion of the region.

Essentially, the language has roughly two million speakers and, if their knowledge of Thai is weak, they have no way to communicate with government officials.

And the NRC report addressed this cultural/communication barrier when the wrote “one cause of violence in the region stems from the actions of government officials. In particular, some civil servants who exercise state authority in the three southern border provinces do not understand religion, culture, language, and way of life of Thai Muslims”.

Their rational was that the relationship between government institutions and the Thai-Muslim population was dysfunctional and that improving the lines of communication was a key to deescalating tension in the region.

So, despite ultra-nationalist spoilers like General Prem, it is great to see that the first Thai/Pattani-Malay dictionary has been published.

If the dictionary can help ease communication barriers between the civil service and the local population, then it is an important step in mitigating sources of conflict on the southern border.

This dicationary has been publish by the Asia Foundation and more information can be found here: First-Ever Thai/Pattani-Malay Dictionary

1 comment:

  1. Assalamu'alaikum Wr,Wb

    Saya yakin saudara boleh berbahasa melayu ala Kelantan
    Selamat berpuasa


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